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5 Reasons to Update Your Job Descriptions Right Now

September 1, 2016
job description

Writing job descriptions is not an activity that many HR professionals would rate as one of their favorites. It’s usually slow, meticulous work that can’t be delegated, and as such has garnered a negative reputation in the field. As cumbersome as it can be, writing job descriptions is one of the most critical parts of the recruitment and hiring process and should be treated accordingly.

For most, if not all of your applicants, the job description is the first thing they see that introduces them to your company and the position itself. If your job description is either too sparse or convoluted, or out of date, you’ll probably get fewer applications than if it were more current and succinct. There are multiple reasons to revisit your job descriptions, the most common of which include:

1) The Tasks or Responsibilities Have Changed

This reason is the most obvious, but also the most critical. If the job has undergone substantial evolution, not updating the job description will not only lead to less qualified new hires, but could even open you up to legal troubles. If someone is hired under the pretense of performing a certain set of tasks, and then is let go due to their inability to perform additional tasks not identified up front in the job description, they may have cause to sue. Whenever a job’s tasks and responsibilities get changed, the job description needs to be immediately updated to reflect those tweaks.

2) The Compensation Has Changed

Even if the nature of the job doesn’t change whatsoever, whenever there are adjustments to a company’s pay or benefits structures, the old information on the job description needs to be updated. Many descriptions include at least high level information regarding the compensation, whether financial or otherwise, and leaving that outdated information there can lead to similar negative results until it’s changed to reflect the current policies.

3) It’s Been Awhile

In situations where there hasn’t been any significant changes to a job, experts still say it’s a good idea to revisit job descriptions at least once a year. Even if the tasks and responsibilities are still identical to 12 months ago, looking over the description forces you to think critically about the job, considering if there are less obvious needs to make an adjustment or two.

Even if there isn’t a pressing business need, occasionally reviewing the job descriptions through the lens of continuous improvement could spark ideas for ways to increase performance on the job. Before implementing any concrete changes, however, a thorough job analysis to determine the relatedness and required proficiency levels of any knowledge, skills, or abilities (KSAs) being considered must be conducted.

4) Quality of Hires

If you’ve noticed or received complaints regarding the poor quality of new hires for the position in question, it might be a good time to take a look at the job description as a potential cause. If it hasn’t been updated in some time, there might be areas where the language could be improved to help those who would be poor performers self-select out of the process. Barring this, if the poor QoH circumstance continues on for a significant period of time, taking a deeper dive into the prerequisites and qualifications needed to perform the job could be needed. If the applicant pool has shifted, taking the time to update the job description accordingly can help minimize poor hires.

5) Organizational Initiatives

Sometimes executive leadership passes down new organization-wide initiatives that they expect to be embraced and integrated across all departments. Mandates such as “Increase sustainability” or “Prioritize customer service” aren’t always accompanied by solid action plans, so a good way to support the initiative is to incorporate them into the recruitment process where appropriate.

Finding out which positions would benefit from increased performance on the more fleshed out competencies (like customer service) would be a good first step. For the more ambiguous concepts like sustainability, adding language to the job description about how your company is focused on these and other similar endeavors can lead to increased applications from like-minded candidates.

Job descriptions are often a company’s only chance at a first impression. Making their continuous revision and improvement a priority will help ensure that you aren’t missing out on potential top talent at the very beginning of the recruitment process.

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Greg Kedenburg Greg Kedenburg is an I/O Psychologist who previously worked for PSI. He is living and working in Chicago, IL.